Public Health Department taking first steps toward accreditation

by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

Morrison County’s Public Health Department has begun work on the extensive process to achieve accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). The first steps in the process center around quality improvement.

“This just came on the radar two or three years ago,” Public Health Director Bonnie Paulsen toldthe County Board, Tuesday. “One thing needed for accreditation is to show that we’re working on the quality improvement process.”

Although Public Health has been consistently making improvements, they are now documenting their efforts more closely.

Paulsen said that one consideration for accreditation is how the department is working with coalitions or collaboratives.

Accreditation involves making improvements to 12 standard areas: assess; investigate; inform and educate; community engagement; policies and plans; public health laws; access to care; workforce; quality improvement; evidence-based practices; administration and management and governance.

The PHAB standards apply to all Tribal, state, local and territorial health departments.

Paulsen said that the state is in the process of getting accredited itself. The state is encouraging boards of health to work toward accreditation together.

“Wadena, Todd and Morrison counties are working together, looking at how we can improve processes,” Paulsen said. “We are formalizing communication among ourselves to better work together.

Paulsen explained that larger counties are hiring full-time workers to get the accreditation process up and running, but “all of our small counties know we can’t afford to do that.”

A handful of counties have submitted their applications for accreditation, but most are further behind in the process.

“We were waiting for the state to become accredited first. They thought they could be a resource for counties,” said Paulsen. “Accreditation is pretty extensive.”

Ultimately, Paulsen thinks that there won’t be a lot more work, but “getting there initially will be a lot of work.”

Paulsen had hoped the accreditation process would be completed by 2015, but is not confident that will be achieved.

“There is no set date requiring accreditation, but all counties are encouraged to go through that process,” she said.

“I think it’s important for us to evolve, improve and position ourselves to succeed well into the future,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber. “We are finding that funding is following organizations that work to keep up with industry trends and best practices.  The accreditation process is intended to help ensure we are equipped to compete for funding to support various Public Health endeavors moving forward.”